[Anchor Lead]

BTS’s rise to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 has boosted the expectations for K-pop more than ever. But under the glittering headlines lies a grim reality. Small and medium record labels and lesser-known artists have had their chances to perform completely taken away by the pandemic.

[Pkg] [Soundbite] “Welcome to your first Bang Bang Con!”

BTS’s first online concert. The number of peak concurrent users reached roughly 750,000, grossing more than 20 billion won in ticket sales alone. K-pop boyband Super Junior delighted their fans through an online concert using augmented reality and other cutting-edge technology.

[Soundbite] “Let’s meet one of our fans!”

As COVID-19 has made concerts with audiences almost impossible, K-pop stars are finding new ways to survive through online shows. The government plans to build studios exclusively for online-only concerts late next year. But only a handful of K-pop artists can make money through online concerts. Online contents are still perceived as being free of charge, but it takes quite a lot of money to put on a well-crafted and visually stunning online show.

[Soundbite] YOON DUK-WON(LEADER, BROCCOLI YOU TOO?) : “Making a non-contact concert costs almost the same as putting on an offline concert except for the expense of dealing with audience members.”

It is estimated that an indie band spends at least 5 million won for an online concert. That includes costs for venue, broadcasting equipment, staff, wardrobe and publicity. At 20,000 won per ticket, a band needs at least 250 audience members to barely break even.

[Soundbite] ROH GEON-SIK(CO-CEO OF RECORD LABEL) : “Very few people purchase tickets to see an indie band concert. But idol groups have strong fan bases which make lucrative online concerts possible.”

Massive concert cancellations following the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a loss of over 13 billion won for small and medium record labels. There are concerns that if things continue on this path, only music created by large labels will be able to survive.

[Soundbite] YOON DONG-HWAN(VICE PRES., RECORD LABEL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF KOREA) : “Some people may think that we can just stop making music for a while, but a lot of industries depend on music to make a living. Ultimately, the entire Korean pop culture can be affected.”


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